Lean Healthcare

Lean thinking may have been born in Toyota in the 1950s and 1960s, but it wasn’t until after the year 2000 that a few hospitals began to explore its application to the healthcare industry (lean healthcare). These pioneering organizations came together to share their stories at the first Global Lean Healthcare Summit in the UK in 2007, which in turn triggered many more experiments around the world. Since then, interest has kept growing.

Some fifteen years on, we have hundreds of examples to learn from, from clinics and departments through to entire hospitals and even whole hospital systems. Not all early experiments succeeded, and we are still a long way from making lean a widely recognized way of working across the industry.
Healthcare providers around the world still face huge challenges, as ageing populations and unhealthy lifestyles boost the demand for healthcare faster than the growth of incomes and tax revenues from the middle classes. At the same time, the quality of care has not improved as much as the quality of other services in the economy, which is why more and more healthcare organizations are turning to lean.

Historically, lean healthcare ideas have been applied in large hospitals, but in the past few years we have started to see the philosophy adopted in earnest in many smaller organizations following a do-it-yourself approach that has generated many positive benefits. An impressive example is the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf near Barcelona.

lean healthcare james hereford COO

A COO at his third lean healthcare transformation

PROFILE – In this new section, Planet Lean features some of the most inspirational lean leaders out there. For the first profile, we have selected James Hereford, a former high school teacher who is now leading his third healthcare transformation.
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When lean management matters most: improving cancer care

FEATURE ARTICLE – By adopting lean thinking and establishing a dedicated care pathway, a Brazilian hospital has been able to drastically reduce the time breast cancer patients have to wait to undergo surgery or start treatment.
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Interview with Helen Zak on lean healthcare challenges

INTERVIEW – At the recent European Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit, we sat down with Helen Zak for a few minutes to discuss the state of change in the healthcare sector.

Transforming your hospital using lean thinking

VIDEO CASE STUDY – In the past couple of years, the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf has been able to leverage the commitment of its people to perform a lean turnaround. Its story shows you don’t need lots of resources and money to do lean in a hospital.
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DIY lean transformation at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic

FEATURE ARTICLE – You don’t always need a lot of external help to initiate a lean transformation: the experience of the Emergency Department of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona shows it can be done with very little support from the outside.
st elisabeth hospital lean healthcare

Putting “loving care” at the heart of a lean transformation

INTERVIEW – PL sits down with a consultant and a manager from the St Elisabeth hospital in the Netherlands to talk about the organization’s “loving care” approach to treating patients.
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Lean leadership and the opportunity for developing countries

ARTICLE – While supporting the adoption of lean in a Mozambican hospital, a young engineer learned a number of valuable lessons on leadership and what it really takes to help developing countries to grow.
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Can healthcare learn from software firm Menlo Innovations?

ARTICLE – Menlo Innovations has proved there is a different, more "joyful" way of running a software development company – could those same lessons be applied to the healthcare industry?
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Lean healthcare: improving Emergency Departments in the UK

FEATURE ARTICLE – Introducing initial assessments by senior doctors and bedside diagnostics to improve the efficiency of the Emergency Department: a lean healthcare experiment in England.
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A guide to a system-wide lean healthcare transformation

ARTICLE – No healthcare transformation can succeed without a system-wide approach to change. In this article, Dr. John Toussaint, offers his take on the issue, providing a guide for healthcare executives.

LIA helping Gauteng hospitals get lean

NEWS - The Guateng Department of Health and Lean Institute Africa have initiated a program to improve staff efficiency and reduce patient waiting times in provincial hospitals.
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Lean healthcare: 3P design for the hospitals of tomorrow

ARTICLE - Improving healthcare architecture means truly meeting patient requirements. This article reflects on the power of 3P design and looks at an implementation in the North East of England.
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Good lean coaching comes from caring for those we mentor

ARTICLE – What makes a mentor-mentee relationship successful? This intimate account comes all of the way from a Tanzania healthcare organization, and proves how lean is fundamentally about “caring for people.”
dan jones lean healthcare lessons

Lowdown on lean management principles applied to healthcare

RESEARCH - In the last 10 years lean has made its way in many hospitals and healthcare systems, often with impressive results. Professor Dan Jones looks back at the lessons learned throughout the decade.

Lean management to transform a Chinese hospital

CASE STUDY - Three successful improvement projects at a hospital in Guangzhou are proving that lean healthcare in China is an opportunity that the sector cannot afford to miss.

Job instructions: how lean management can help people with Asperger’s

ARTICLE - There is more to TWI than applications in our jobs. In this article, a creative mother shares the moving story of how she used Job Instructions to help her 5-year-old son with Asperger Syndrome.

Bringing lean change to the Garraf hospital

COLUMN - In the third article of our series, the CEO of a healthcare institution in Catalonia, Spain, discusses the implementation of lean as a mindset that has its foundations in continuous improvement.
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Lean thinking to shorten patient length of stay

CASE STUDY - This article reports on the efforts that Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands has made to apply Theory of Constraints to patients' length of stay.